Much like the NBA, the WNBA's Western Conference is stacked with good teams. Last week's WNBA finals featured two of them — something that can't happen in the NBA given the league's playoff structure.
Pro basketball playoffs. That's where we start this week's edition of "3 Stories You Should Know." Julie DiCaro, a host at Chicago's 670 The Score, and Erik Malinowski, author of "Betaball," joined Bill Littlefield.
1. WNBA Playoff Format
Last week, the Minnesota Lynx defeated the Los Angeles Sparks in yet another very competitive WNBA Finals matchup. For the past two years, the WNBA playoffs have been played by the eight teams with the highest records in the league, regardless of their respective conferences. Bill Littlefield knows a good idea when he sees one, and he thinks the NBA should take note.
Back a couple years ago, the WNBA changed the rules. And they said, "We're going to let teams into the playoffs based on winning percentage during the regular season rather than taking into account conference standings." Great idea, because it gave us two wonderful finals series over the past two seasons. We have all seen years in which one NBA conference is top-heavy with good teams. Wouldn't it be an excellent idea for the NBA to allow, for example, two Western Conference teams to play each other in the finals? Wouldn't necessarily mean Golden State didn't meet Cleveland for all the marbles, but it would open up the possibility of the two best teams playing against each other for the finals.
2. The Role Of Good Coaching
Great sports teams are often praised for their coaches. The Patriots have Bill Belichick, Duke basketball has Mike Krzyzewski, Alabama football has Nick Saban, to name a few. Erik Malinowski took a look at the Golden State Warriors, and it got him thinking how we assess coaches' roles in team success.
I was writing about the rise of the Warriors under Mark Jackson, and they showed so much development and maturity, and they learned confidence and how to shoot the 3-ball. And you have a guy like Steve Kerr come in who improves from 51 wins to 67 wins, and wins a championship, and obviously gets a lot of that credit and deserves it. But you sort of forget a little bit about the head start that he got from Mark Jackson. And so, there is no right answer to this, but I'm curious: When we think about championship-level teams and teams that stand the test of time and we remember them, where do we place the coach's role in all of that?
3. Where Does U.S. Men's Soccer's Success Start?
Alexi Lalas recently said that he thinks the U.S. men's national team can win the World Cup, but many still express doubts about the team. Julie DiCaro believes that U.S. soccer woes start much earlier and much further down the chain.
In this country, it's really become an elitist sport. So you've got a lot of rich white kids playing soccer. You don't have a ton of kids of color. It's a real problem. ... We've got parents out in the suburbs paying $5,000 a quarter for their kids to play with these great club teams. And we have kids who are just as talented, who don't have the means to take part in those activities, who are basically being left behind. So, even though we have this huge population, and we have great athletes in this country, and we should be able to pull from all those different areas to field a national team, we've sort of limited our talent pool.
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This segment aired on October 7, 2017.